Pleasanton Ridge P300

Wed, Nov 6, 2013
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I drove to Sunol/Pleasanton to spend a few hours in the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. The ridge is located in a subset of the Diablo Range squeezed between three Interstates (880, 680 and 580) a portion of the East Bay Hills. The highpoint is officially unnamed, but Pleasanton Ridge is as good a name as any. Most of the ridge is part of the county park, but interestingly, most of its flanks are not. This leaves only two publicly assessible trailheads, one off Foothill Rd and the other from within the small town of Sunol. I had not looked at the official park map available online or I would have known this. As I was looking at Google maps instead, it seemed like there were closer access points to the highpoint, one off Kilkare Rd and the other through Castlewood Country Club. Neither of these work unless you are either a local on Kilkare Rd or a member of the private country club, as I found out by some exploratory driving. I stumbled upon the Foothill entrance during this exercise and decided to use it. The hiking distance would be more than double what I expected but it would still be a modest hike, something around 8 miles round trip.

The park was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday morning (if 5-6 cars qualifies as busy). I ran across hikers and cyclists in roughly equal numbers. The park is also used by equestrians, but there were none out today. In my haste in rushing out of the house I forgot to pack anything to drink. I was happy to find a drinking fountain in the parking lot, and even happier to find several along the route. I don't think I recall any other county park with such ammenities. This was made possible by the large water tank located near the highpoint, put there by the City of Pleasanton to service the exclusive homes in the Castlewood Country Club and other expensive neighborhoods on either side of it.

The hike starts off steeply on the Woodland Trail to reach the lower southern end of the ridge, then becomes easier as one climbs more gradually up the ridge. To the west is a higher ridge topped by Sunol Peak, blocking views to the SF Bay, but nice nonetheless. To the east is the Livermore Valley and the ever-present droning of the vehicles on Interstate 680. Most of the trails are on old ranch road, but there are some nice single tracks that were added more recently. One of these was the pleasant Blue Oak Trail that meanders along a portion of the east side of the ridgeline before joining roads at either end. The hiking is fairly open as grassy slopes predominate, but there are many oaks to provide greenery, shade and interest to the terrain.

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to reach the highpoint. A short use trail leads off of the main ridge road to the summit rocks, a view bench, and a geocache. Rocks had been piled up in numerous locations about the summit, some of them augmented with glue to hold the higher rocks in place. They don't exactly fit with my expectations of what a summit should look like, so I spent some minutes dispersing the rocks. I have little doubt they will rise up again over time. Of more interest to me was the large green water tank nearby. I went to check it out, wondering what the view from the top might look like. It was surrounded by a 10-foot fence topped with three strands of barbed wire. Inside, the lower 10ft of the ladder climbing the side was fitted with a locked cover to prevent unauthorized usage. The combination appeared impregnable. Who would be foolish enough to attempt circumventing it?

On the way back I took some variations of the trail system. One of them featured a pink flamingo and a working clock/thermometer attached to a tree. I checked - the clock was keeping accurate time. Another oddity was one of the fences inside the park, normally used to separate different herds of cattle with grazing rights on the property. This one simply ended in the middle of a hillside, without any continuation. There were no portions of it lying down or abandoned. It had either been left incomplete, or a large swath was removed cleanly at some point. I was back at the trailhead before 2p, having spent 2.5hrs on the hike - a very enjoyable time. I had planned to visit a few other summits in the Sunol area as well, but the additional distance on this one had me out of time. I would consider doing the others tomorrow...

boyblue comments on 11/11/13:
"Who would be foolish enough to attempt circumventing it?"

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